By K Spurty Rao and K Shravya Rav
What Sunburn is to Goa, Numaish is to Hyderabad. Numaish, or the All India Industrial Exhibition, is an event to be reckoned with. This annual exhibition that started in 1938 has touched the life of every Hyderabadi and has formed a bond which is, it can only be said, everlasting.
Hyderabad, which is all about Nizam and Numaish, wears a festive look during this season. The calendars for January and February are booked and plans are made, budgets are saved, leaves are spared to visit the All India Industrial Exhibition.
An entry ticket of Rs 10 (Rs 20 on weekends) guarantees unlimited entertainment. What started as a modest exhibition of indigenous products today attracts more than 25 lakh visitors and does business of over Rs 100 crore.
Numaish is thrown open to the public from January 1 to February 15. On these 46 days, all roads lead to the venue at Nampally. The excitement of Numaish sets in as soon as you enter the road leading to the famous Gate No 1, along which are shops selling never-heard-of food items, balloons, bubble blowers and those use-and-throw pencils with a Mickey Mouse perched on top.
Shopping for one and all
Traders from all over the country erect stalls, be they to sell shawls from Kashmir, coconut oil from Kerala, jutties and salwar kameezes from Punjab, saris from Uttar Pradesh, or woolen fabrics from Manipur. Agra's sweets, Delhi chaat, hot chocolate cones, yummy ice-creams, spicy popcorn, gorgeous handbags, electrical goods, trendy footwear or elegant jewelry — you'll find them all.
Also, there are stalls put up by organizations such as the Mission for Elimination of Poverty in Municipal Areas (MEPMA), Development for Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA) as well as products made by prisoners. You will find everything from motorbikes to vegetable cutters (even as the man in the stall demonstrates the working of his contraption, little children snatch the carrots and cucumbers he has sliced and stuff them into their mouths and ask for more), from coconut-breakers to a geyser that supposedly 'amplifies affectionate huggings', from a chikan-work kurti to a treadmill, all ready to be picked and put to use.
Numaish offers something for everyone. Also, it is easy on your pocket. Hum a tune, check out the clothes, eat popcorn, and soak in asli Hyderabadi mizaj. Pet-pujaris can devotedly hang out at the various joints serving mouth-watering delicacies. Gokul chat, a famous chat-bhandar and a joint serving piping hot satwik aahar, is a crowd-puller. And who can resist the famous Pista-House Haleem?
There are many joyrides such as Giant Wheel (Hyderabad's answer to the London-Eye), Columbus, and Break Dance (which for sure will take you back to your childhood). A mini-train with its loud honk runs through the exhibition and gives one an idea of how large and grand this event is. And, blaring over the loud-speakers is the mischievous voice of Kishore Kumar singing 'Yeh dil na hota bechara', which is sometimes intercepted by a croaky voice asking you to use Zinda Tilismat (a famous Unani product). Surely, Numaish is an experience like no other.
A family affair
A three-hour-long cinema with your favorite hero might disappoint you, but this will not. There are joyrides, shopping, there's soaking in the local culture and, to top, you can spend quality time with your family.
Yes, Numaish is the place to visit with the whole family (which can include anybody and everybody from your first cousins to their extended families and quite often their neighbors, too). People come in with their khandaan and make a get-together of it.
Numaish also has a day dedicated to the begums of the home. Yes, a special Ladies Day, where women throng the stalls and do some hard bargaining, much to the chagrin of the poor shopkeepers. You'll find many laying down blankets and passing on food items as if it were a park. So, don't bump into the person in front of you when he/she suddenly decides to settle down in the middle of the path -- kyunki Hyderabad mein aisich hota hai!
A word of caution for those with heavy purse-strings: Pickpockets have sharp knives. And, this is an advice especially to the touch-me-nots; if you are a sensitive phoren-return-allergic-to-everything-Indian, better stay off because this is an Indian affair in its true sense.
Everything's on sale, at a bargain
Never mind your New Year resolution of going light on shopping, Numaish is an extravaganza worth sacrificing your resolution for. Numaish will bring out the Becky Bloomwood in you. The glittery lights, enthusiastic crowds, beseeching sales-calls and eager salesmen who'll push you in irrespective of whether or not you want to go in ('Dekhne ka daam thodi lagta hai?' is their logic) and lure you into buying more than what you want.
One doesn't go in with a list of things to buy; Numaish will tell you what to buy. We say this from years of experience that your head will not listen to you in the midst of all things imaginable, cheap and lovely. It is not a high-tech event where you think twice before asking for the price (fearing that sneer from the salesgirl), but an open-to-air bazaar-style expo. If you are a sober guy, you are at a loss, as the fun of going to the Numaish is in bargaining and owning what you want at the price you deem fit.
Don't worry if there's a fixed price sign hanging, don't let your etiquette take hold of you as no Hyderabadi will ever cow down to that sign. 'Dene ka daam bolo' has always worked well with us. Or else simply walk off and surely you will hear a voice calling behind you 'Kitne mein chahiye medem ji. Blue chahiye ya pink?'
Frequent visitors know the knack and get the best bargains, but newcomers might also quickly learn the ropes simply by observing the others (remember always, the reasonable price of any item is exactly half of what the trader quotes). With these few simple tips, you are well-armed and will not be ripped off. Also, you will not lose out on any item.
As you make your way out to the gates, being pushed and pulled and laden with bursting bags, you'll feel drained but when somebody asks you how the exhibition was, you'll find yourself smiling broadly. And why not, as you'll realize that Numaish-ing has become a favorite pastime of yours.
K Spurty Rao and K Shravya Rav are true-blue Hyderabadi sisters who are passionate about travel and teen-maar, pearls and poetry, biryani and the Big Bang Theory.